New Yorkers gathered near the iconic Stonewall Inn at a vigil held Monday to remember the 49 lives claimed in Sunday’s Orlando shooting.
An hour before local government officials and community leaders were scheduled to make speeches, the chants began: “New York loves Orlando!”
People held up LED candles, blinking iPhones and signs that read “#WeAreOrlando” throughout the night.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, singer-songwriter Nick Jonas and several leaders of the LGBTQ and Muslim communities spoke about the horrific shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Cuomo urged New Yorkers to make Stonewall Inn “not just a national monument but an international symbol for all to know their freedom started here.”
“We say to our enemies tonight, ‘You haven’t caused us fear. You have caused us to be more unified than ever before,’ ” Cuomo said at the vigil, which was hosted by the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City.
During his speech, de Blasio honored the life of Enrique Rios, a 25-year-old Brooklyn resident who was shot and killed at Pulse while visiting Florida for a friend’s birthday.
The mayor said New York City believes in inclusion and unity.
“It was more than an attack on 49 Americans. It was an attack on American values, and it was an attack on New York values,” de Blasio said of the shooting.
Jonas, a celebrity and LGBTQ advocate, also gave a statement.
“No matter who you are, where you’re from or where you’re going in your life, you have the right to love and to be loved,” he said.
Several leaders of the LGBT and Muslim communities called for the end of gun violence. Shelby Chestnut, co-director of the NYC Anti-Violence Project, reminded the crowd that the Orlando shooting is not an isolated incident.
“This tragedy is a result of extreme and deadly violence, and legislation that is legally sanctioned by governments and people across this country,” Chestnut said. “It is on us to make that stop.”
She added, “We see you, we are with you and together we’re going to create a world in which all LGBT people live a life that is free of violence.”
Toward the end of the night, all the names and ages of the victims were called out one by one.
Callie Dixon, 17, who moved to New York City from Cocoa Beach, Florida, a year ago, said she attended the vigil because she wanted to take a stand against violence. Some of her relatives live and work in Orlando, and Dixon is a friend of someone affected by the shooting.
“It came as a shock to me because I’m always told to be careful here in New York since it’s considered such a big target,” says Dixon, who moved to the city to pursue a career in fashion modeling. “It’s crazy that it happened so close to home.”